With the aim of quantitatively evaluating the usefulness of phyllostomid bats as ecological indicators, we compared intra-family levels and feeding guilds between tropical old-growth forest and patches of secondary vegetation growing where the land had been used for shifting agriculture. There were significant differences between vegetation types in bat species composition, with the frugivore guild most abundant in secondary vegetation and the animalivore guild most abundant in the old-growth forest. These results are congruent with the findings for other Neotropical zones and appear to be associated with the type of soil management that allows secondary vegetation to grow. Using the Indicator Value method, two subfamilies, five genera and five species were found to have a significant indicator value. However, these numbers only represent a small proportion of the five subfamilies, 20 genera and 28 species recorded, indicating that under the disturbance conditions that characterize the study area, phyllostomid bats were poor ecological indicators. Even so, some species and subfamilies are useful as disturbance detectors.
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